The Frankfurt Book Fair: The Complete Guide

Frankfurt Book Fair
GettyImages / Hannelore Foerster

Germans pride themselves on their literary nature. As well they should with the likes of Goethe, Heinrich Böll, Thomas Mann, and Günter Grass in their midst.

For modern bibliophiles, The Frankfurter Buchmesse (FBM) is a showcase of the best in the written word. It is the world's largest trade fair for books. It takes place over five days every October and draws more visitors than any other book fair.

For anyone into books, the Frankfurt Book Fair is a highlight of the year. Find out what to expect and how to visit Frankfurt's Book Fair.

History of the Frankfurt Book Fair

The book fair began in earnest in 1454 following Johannes Gutenberg's revolutionary invention of the printing press. Gutenberg created the first press in nearby Mainz, but Frankfurt swiftly became the center of the West's publishing industry. Before that, sellers would meet to sell manuscripts, but with the ability to create printed books, the fair developed as an opportunity for local booksellers to trade, buy, and sell books.

The event grew to become the most important book fair in Europe, but was soon rivaled by the Leipzig Book Fair. World War II completely halted events like book fairs, but by 1949, the festival had begun again and has been run continuously every year since.

It has regained its place as the premiere book fair and continues to grow every year.

There are over 7,500 exhibits from 100 countries and over 280,000 visitors.

What to Expect at the Frankfurt Book Fair

The Frankfurt Book Fair is not only a major event for book lovers, but it's also is a key marketing event for book sellers. Serious book business goes down, like negotiating international publishing rights and licensing fees.

This is the place to be for publishers, agents, authors, illustrators, film producers, translators, and representatives from trade associations to network. To cater to the business side, the first three days are restricted to professional visitors.

After the work is done, it is time to play as the public is allowed to visit. The entrance fee for the public starts at 20 euro for the day. Tickets allow you to meet with up-and-coming and best-selling authors, buy the latest releases, and nerd out with your fellow book lovers at events and discussions.

Every year a different guest is featured. In 2018, Georgian literature was the focus. The events range from information on readings, self-publishing, cosplay, poetry slams, human rights talks, Gourmet Gallery with tasty cuisine along with cook books, and more. There are also awards, ranging from serious like the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade to a prize for the Oddest Title of the Year.

Besides the official events, a lot happens at the surrounding bars, hotels, and restaurants. The Frankfurter Hof's bars and restaurants is the preferred watering hole for socializing after hours.

How to Attend the Frankfurt Book Fair

In a city built for conferences, this festival takes on an intellectual air.

The event takes place for 5 days every October at the Frankfurter Messe, a massive four-million-square-foot exhibition space. To navigate the book fair, study the map to find full information for all the different areas and scheduled events or join one of the guided tours.

The 2019 Frankfurt Book Fair will take place October 16th–20th. The public days are over the weekend. There are security checks at the door so try not to bring excess luggage, check extra baggage at the coat rooms, and be prepared by coming early.

The messe is easily reachable from the Hauptbahnhof (central station) by public transport or just by a 10-minute-walk. Note that the Frankfurt Card offers many city discounts as well as free travel on all public transport including Frankfurt International Airport. If you are driving to the book fair, the city center is a low emission zone and requires a green badge to drive here.

If you are using a rental car, ask about this at the counter. There is also a free shuttle to the exhibition grounds from the city center. 

What to Buy at the Frankfurt Book Fair

The Frankfurt Book Fair is the place to buy the newest releases in the literary world. In addition to the printed editions, audio books and e-books are in demand. Politics will not just be discussed (many books on different movements will also be for sale), and you can show support for something you believe in by putting your money behind it.

Was this page helpful?